In 2004, the 14th Shamar Rinpoche gave a series of talks for the opening of the first Bodhi Path Center in Germany (Remetschwiel). In his first talk, Rinpoche provided a detailed, systematic outline of the curriculum for his Bodhi Path centers—one which he further developed and refined in later teachings and books. Below is a lightly edited transcription of that talk. 

Talk transcribed by Lara Braitstein

Shamar Rinpoche begins by reciting the mantras of Śākyamuni Buddha and Mañjuśrī:

om muni muni mahamuni shakyamuni svaha
om arapachana dhih


The main objective of the Bodhi Path Buddhist Centers is to give teachings on the many subjects contained in Buddhism, and in particular on the teachings of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. 

Two main streams of Buddhist practice are upheld within the Kagyu lineage. One is the practice of the Six Dharmas, a lineage transmitted from Tilopa to Naropa. The other is called Mahamudra (Great Seal) and is a lineage that was transmitted from Saraha to Maitripa. Naropa and Maitripa were Marpa’s gurus. From Marpa the transmission continued to Milarepa and then from Milarepa to Gampopa. Gampopa combined the Mahamudra with Atisha’s Lojong (Mind Training) practice and taught this extensively. A very special lineage of Gampopa, it is known as ‘the combined lineage of Kadampa and Mahamudra’. Since his time, it has been upheld as one of the main streams of teachings of all Kagyupas. 


Mahamudra is one of the principal teachings of the Karma Kagyu lineage. The Karmapas and other Karma Kagyu lamas wrote various commentaries on Mahamudra, and in particular the 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje composed a concise, a medium-length, and an extensive commentary on Mahamudra. The concise volume is called The Finger Pointing out the Dharmakaya (Chöku Dzubtsuk), the medium-length volume is called Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance (Marik Munsel), and the extensive volume is called The Ocean of Ultimate Meaning (Ngedön Gyatso). All three volumes teach the Mahamudra. 

The term ‘Mahamudra’ is a combination of two Sanskrit words that denote a tantric topic. It is translated as Great Seal in English (chakgya chenpo, or chakchen in Tibetan). The majority of Kagyu Lamas who became enlightened achieved this realization through Mahamudra practice. Depending on the individual, some practitioners only engage in Mahamudra practice, and some also need the support of inner heat practice (chandali in Sanskrit, tummo in Tibetan). The practice of inner heat may speed up the accomplishment of Mahamudra, but not everyone needs it. Some of the realized Kagyu Lamas needed the support of inner heat and other practices from among the Six Dharmas of Naropa in order to accelerate their realization. Many other Lamas did not and were awakened through the Mahamudra practice alone. 

Saraha’s pointing out the mind meditation lineage of Mahamudra is very profound. This teaching or method points precisely to the nature of mind and leads the practitioner in a special way. Saraha simply sang his instructions on the nature of mind, accompanied by a plucked string instrument. He travelled as a beggar and gave Mahamudra instructions with his songs. Many people became enlightened just by listening to Saraha’s songs together with the power of his blessings. Many of his listeners attained the first level of the Mahamudra path. A number of collections of Saraha’s songs—known as dohas—are available to us. Principal among them is a set of three: the King Doha, the Queen Doha, and the Minister Doha. Saraha’s lineage was passed down to us in the beginning through his disciple Nagarjuna, and then through Shawaripa, Maitripa, Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa. 

The Study of Mahamudra

Teachings may be transmitted in two ways: textually and orally. Written instructions tend to be more superficial. Books entitled ‘Mahamudra’ tend to be limited in scope and are often restricted only to the first level of Mahamudra even though the titles give the impression that they contain the entire Mahamudra system. In cases such as these, ‘Mahamudra’ is just a name. 

To start, people may read a book on Mahamudra and receive a few instructions from a teacher. It is only the practitioners who are able to reach a more advanced level in their practice, however, who receive the secretly kept part of the Mahamudra teachings. These secretly kept teachings are the oral instructions. As the term ‘oral’ implies, they are not written down. The reason why that part of the teachings is kept secret is that if it were written down and publicly available, people would be naturally drawn to meditate on what they have read. Their meditation would therefore simply consist of their own imagination based on what they have read. As such it would not be accurate or direct. This would also mean that the key points of Mahamudra are being distorted, benefitting no one. To avoid this distortion of the teachings, the oral instructions have been strictly maintained as such. 

A student starting out on the path of progression in Mahamudra may first receive some instructions together with readings from a book, and then they should really apply themselves to understand the way properly. When the student follows the way and does the practice, the teacher will then give more profound instructions as needed.  

The teaching of this lineage has not yet been properly organized in western countries. His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Kalu Rinpoche, Lama Gendun Rinpoche and others who taught here in the west introduced it gradually and meant to teach it later. These teachers laid down a very good foundation, although they have now passed away. 

The most important preliminaries to both the practice of Mahamudra and the Six Dharmas are the Ngondro practices. Some teachers, such as Kalu Rinpoche, taught these extensively. Other teachers focused more on the Refuge Vow and the Bodhisattva Vow, in addition to the Ngondro. They did so according to the request of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. Over the past few decades, most teachers have taught general Buddhist practices, including the Kadampa Lojong (Mind Training).

Bodhi Path: a Mahamudra Teaching Center 

I am organizing Bodhi Path Centers in order to teach Mahamudra. I am doing this since until now nothing like this has been established. The first Bodhi Path Center was set up in the United States, and since that time several more have been established there. Now I am beginning to establish Bodhi Path Centers in Europe. This—here in Remetschwiel—is the first one. Herbert Giller’s foundation purchased this house, and I hope that the center will be very beneficial to people in Europe. 

I myself will teach at these centers. His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa will come here to give initiations and teachings. Jigme Rinpoche, Khenpo Chodrak Tenpel Rinpoche, many Rinpoches, Lamas, Khenpos, and the Druplas from Le Bost who are very experienced with Mahamudra teachings will all, on occasion, visit and teach here as well. 

When the Mahamudra teaching is combined with tantra, it is generally the Four-Armed Chenrezik, the Two-Armed Chenrezik, or Khorlo Demchok. There are two different Four-Armed Chenreziks: white and red. The red one is called Gyalwa Gyamtso. The Two-Armed and Four-Armed White Chenrezik Mahamudra practices are also mixed with Ati Yoga. Korlo Demchok and Red Chenrezik are only combined with Mahamudra practice. 

When a disciple arrives at a certain stage, the teacher will select a yidam (specific meditation deity) for them. The selection is based on the disciple’s own qualities. They will then do Mahamudra practice according to their designated yidam. When I was first organizing a Bodhi Path practice curriculum, I did quite a few predictions to determine which yidam would be suitable for disciples in general. Every time the result showed me that it is White Chenrezik combined with both Mahamudra and Ati Yoga. 

The White Chenrezik lineage of the Karma Kagyu comes from the 9th Karmapa. It is a combination of all lineages of White Chenrezik, of which there are many. In Tibet, for example, there is the lineage from Songtsen Gampo, the Bodhisattva King of Tibet. Then there is the lineage of Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche. There are also other lineages from Sakya and Kagyu masters who came after them. The 9th Karmapa concentrated all these lineages into one White Chenrezik practice. Karma Chagme was a very great bodhisattva of the Karma Kagyu lineage. He taught the 9th Karmapa’s White Chenrezik combined with Mahamudra and Ati Yoga. This combined practice became immensely popular among the Kagyu, Nyingma, and also Sakya practitioners. It was the heart practice of most of the Kagyu and Nyingma meditators. They still practiced the Guru Yoga of Padmasambhava, Milarepa, or Karmapa. They still received teachings and initiations on many yidam practices which they put into practice. But in the end, they chose and kept this combined practice of Chenrezik as their heart or core practice. 

A System of Practice at Bodhi Path

To be successful in your Dharma practice, you need to walk the path of Dharma. There are two types of paths: the common (or ordinary) path, and the extraordinary path. Without the support of the common path, you cannot reach the extraordinary path. Without the extraordinary path, you cannot experience ultimate enlightenment. This means that you have to practice both the common and the extraordinary paths together. Whether or not you meet the extraordinary path depends on your individual karma. If your karma is conducive towards enlightenment, then you will meet the extraordinary path. If your karma is just alright and you simply have a good foundation, then you will always connect with the common path. In that case it is likely that you will eventually meet up with the extraordinary path, but it all depends on your individual karma. 

The common path requires that you have refuge vows and bodhisattva vows. The refuge vow consists of going for refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. It is the first ground, the first fundamental level of dharma practice. You can think of it as a kind of fertilizer. When you want to grow something, you need soil. And soil needs fertilizer. To explain the metaphor more fully, the mind is the soil, the refuge vows are the fertilizer, and what is being cultivated or grown is enlightenment. Enlightenment depends on your mind. That rich soil, the mind, has to be purified. All the ignorance of the mind has to be cleared away, and that is accomplished through the path of the Dharma. To develop the path of the Dharma first requires that you take refuge. The refuge vows, therefore, are the very basis of that purification, the fertilizer for the soil. Thus, taking the refuge vows is a very important foundation. 

I will explain the bodhisattva vow using a different metaphor. If you build a multistory house but without a staircase, then you cannot access the upper stories. The bodhisattva vow is that staircase. The quality of the bodhisattva vow is to have the bodhichitta attitude towards sentient beings, which means to have compassion and loving kindness towards sentient beings. Bodhi means enlightenment and chitta means heart. Bodhichitta therefore means ‘heart of enlightenment’ (and bodhi path means the path to enlightenment!). The bodhisattva vow itself has two aspects: relative bodhichitta and absolute bodhichitta. Relative bodhichitta is the root and absolute bodhichitta is the main staircase. In order to develop these two aspects, you have to take the bodhisattva vow. As I just mentioned, the quality of the bodhisattva vow is to have the bodhichitta attitude of compassion and loving kindness towards sentient beings. There is a very dualistic kind of compassion and loving kindness which is connected to emotions. This very emotional compassion and loving kindness does not have much quality. That is because if it is very emotional you will get attached to something, grasp something. With all those emotions involved it cannot be pure bodhichitta. To have pure bodhichitta, you must have the attitude of absolute bodhichitta together with relative bodhichitta. The heart should be detached from emotion, and therefore the absolute bodhichitta view is needed. Absolute bodhichitta is the wisdom of the bodhichitta mind. Absolute bodhichitta is developed on the ground of relative bodhichitta. 

Relative and Ultimate

A few steps need to be taken in order to develop absolute bodhichitta. The first step is to hear precise instructions about the nature of phenomena. The teachings of the Buddha—the Dharma—explain precisely how phenomena are illusions of your mind. On the one hand, on a relative level everything is there just as you see it. However, the absolute or ultimate nature of any thing is that it does not truly exist. Take this house as an example. The pillars depend on the foundation, the beams depend on the pillars, the roof depends on the beams, and so forth. So on the relative level, you have a house. That is a relative truth. But when you look for the ‘truth’ of the house you find that it is a collection of many parts which all depend on one another. You cannot find the house in any of the parts. The ground is not the house, the foundation is not the house, the walls, pillars, beams, roof and so forth, none of these is the house. That is how you approach the absolute. In absolute truth no thing is really existent. But relatively, everything exists.

Enlightenment is ultimate truth. But it is dependent on the path, which is relative truth. Just as beams need pillars, pillars need foundations and so forth, just in that way, in order to attain liberation you need relative bodhichitta and you need absolute bodhichitta. You need all this to build up to the ultimate truth that is enlightenment. Relatively, however, you need a path. It is the same as when you build a house.

Enlightenment is when all the ignorance is cleared away from your mind. That is the final ultimate truth. To clear the ignorance from your mind, you need remedies that work according to your illusions. As long as illusions exist, the remedies exist. Relatively. By really knowing the problems of the mind, you will know the appropriate remedies to solve them. So, solving the problem depends on the remedy. That is the path, the relative path for ultimate enlightenment. 

The Basic Problem

Sentient beings are totally drowning in a problem: the relative existence of illusions which bring about relatively existent samsara. ‘Samsara’ means the realms of living beings. There are no realms of living beings which ultimately exist. There is no such thing as ‘ultimately existent samsara’. To be ‘ultimately existent’ means that a thing cannot be removed. By contrast, since all of samsara exists relatively, like a dream, you can eliminate it. If it were ultimately existent, you could not eliminate it. For example, if a dream really ultimately exists then the dream will not disappear, even when you wake up. So you know that the dream itself is not ultimately existent because when you wake up, it disappears. It doesn’t go anywhere. It disappears because by its nature it does not exist. To emphasize the point: the dream does not go anywhere—it is not that you put all the dreams in a corner when you wake up. The dream itself is not existent. That is why dreams disappear when you wake up. Samsara is like that. Its basis is ignorance. Based on ignorance there are negative emotions, then karma, then all the illusions of samsara. Each one depends on the other. That is the path to samsara. None of these exist ultimately. Therefore, all the problems of samsara can be solved because they are not ultimate truth. Samsaric problems should be solved, and ultimate enlightenment needs to be developed. Then your samsara will end. 

This Precious Human Life

This human life is precious. Buddhist teachings will always introduce you to how your life is useful and precious. A human life has wisdom, potential and opportunity: wisdom is in the capacity to see enlightenment; the potential is in the capacity to embark on the path that leads there; and opportunity is having a human mind that is rich enough to absorb the path to enlightenment. The human mind can understand ultimate bodhichitta very well. As was described above, this means the capacity to understand not only that all phenomena are not existent, but also how they are not existent.  The human mind can understand all this. 

Listen, Reflect, Meditate

Listening, reflecting, and meditating are the steps of the dharma path. First you have to listen to the teachings of the Buddha that explain the ultimate nature of phenomena. This careful listening is called töpa in Tibetan. Then you have to think it over, reflect on it. Think about it over and over until you find the actual meaning. This process is called sampa in Tibetan. Absorbing the most profound meaning of the dharma depends on you thinking over the teachings. Then the path of meditation will be clear to you. Meditation is called gompa in Tibetan. 

Meditation naturally solves the problem of clinging—clinging and self-clinging. Once you have self-clinging then there are many things to cling to, things about which your self thinks, “this is what I want!” So, first there is self-clinging, then after that comes clinging to all the things you want. You will cling onto everything. That is how all living beings find themselves in the trap of clinging, are bound by the chain of clinging. This chain of clinging, which I will explain in more detail below, is actually a mistake made by your mind. The process of meditation is how you can clear away all these problems, all these chains of clinging. 

There are fundamentally two types of clinging: clinging to the phenomena of samsara and clinging to the path of Dharma. This latter one is a more advanced level of the problem. Both types of clinging can be removed through a precise understanding of the view of absolute bodhichitta: emptiness. This means the emptiness aspect of Madhyamaka thought, in other words freedom from the four extremes. 

Embarking on the Path: Shiné

As I explained already, you begin by taking the refuge vow and then the bodhisattva vow. The bodhisattva vow has two aspects: relative and ultimate. When you take the relative vow you will make a commitment to maintain the mind of relative bodhichitta. The ultimate bodhisattva vow is not really a vow, instead it is something that you will develop. After taking the refuge vow and the bodhisattva vow, you will receive the teachings on shiné, or calm abiding meditation. There are a few steps of shiné, preliminary and advanced. 

Shiné is practiced in order to train your mind to be free from the bad habit of constantly thinking, being busy, confused. Your mind has to be freed from that. The first or common level of shiné is how you can train your mind to be stable. Your success of course depends on your diligence. If you maintain shiné practice constantly then you will achieve it as your nature, not as something that you bring into your mind. Common shiné, therefore, is a very smart way to train your mind to be free from bad habits. Then the more advanced shiné is how you develop unobstructed peace of mind, the open mind. 

The realization of the emptiness of self and of phenomena are the eyes of meditation for enlightenment. To develop these two eyes depends on the stability of the contemplation of your mind. That stability will be developed through shiné. First you need a very strong grounding in shiné and then on that basis you can develop the realization of the emptiness of phenomena and mind. To have these two eyes means to have the view. It is not a view that you learn from books. It is the view that you experience. When you have the experience of the view —these two eyes—you will examine each and every negative emotion in your mind. That is how you will clear all the ignorance from your mind.  

Shantideva said: 

Penetrative insight joined with calm abiding 
Utterly eradicates afflicted states.
Knowing this, first search for calm abiding,
Found by those who joyfully renounce the world 

(8.4, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group)

All the afflicted negative emotions will be incinerated by these two eyes, and you can successfully develop that level of shiné when you are not terribly attached to phenomenal things. This doesn’t mean that you should not own a car or enjoy your breakfast! It means that you are not emotionally grasping your breakfast. 

Tilopa taught Naropa: the chain is not what you see, the chain is your grasping. The chain of grasping is what ties you. Not emotionally grasping everything will be a good condition to develop your shiné. That is how you develop shiné. When you have a good foundation of shiné then you can develop this precise view of lhaktong (penetrative insight). 

Prostrations to the 35 Buddhas

We will teach shiné here in order to develop this wisdom and then shiné will subdue confusion and the problems of a restless mind. But there is another problem, another obscuration: bad karma. Karmic problems can be totally eliminated and purified by prostrations to the 35 Buddhas. This practice is contained within the Four Foundations practised by Marpa and all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism embrace this lineage of practice. We will teach it here. The text for practice on the 35 Buddhas has been translated into English and German.   

Mandala Offerings

After the prostrations is the practice of mandala offerings. Mandala practice is done in order to accumulate the power of merit. As long as you are on the path of the Dharma you need merit. On the one hand you must purify your karma, and on the other hand you need the support of merit. To be a successful bodhisattva accomplishing the benefit of sentient beings you must depend on merit. And the accumulation of merit depends on generosity, giving. Even mentally practicing generosity is good for accumulating merit, therefore mandala practice is important. It is a kind of mental therapy. In the mind you visualize all the things to which you are attached. Now you no longer think “I need this”. Instead, you offer it, give it away. Give it away, give it away, give it away. That is a very meritorious practice. 

At this time, you may not have so very many things to give to sentient beings. In order to have that ability in the future, the first step is to mentally give everything away. Accumulate the merit of generosity mentally. I don’t mean that you are not fortunate now—but maybe in another lifetime you will be a very wealthy bodhisattva and you will give away many things to sentient beings.

Tonglen: Giving and Taking

While you are doing the practice of prostrations to the 35 Buddhas and the mandala practice, continue to practice shiné. When you are well grounded in common shiné, then the teacher will teach you tonglen: giving and taking. Tonglen is also shiné, but it is more advanced plus it is a bodhisattva practice. You are giving your happiness to sentient beings and taking on their suffering. It has very powerful merit. You will do tonglen practice while you are doing prostrations to the 35 Buddhas and the mandala offerings. With time you will definitely develop a very good experience of shiné. This is because the more negative karma is purified, the more your mind will shine and be clear. Then your shiné will be very advanced, very tranquil, you will be so familiar with it. Your shiné will be much more mature. 

Note to Reader: As Shamar Rinpoche continued developing the Bodhi Path curriculum, he provided additional refinement, including the importance of learning lhaktong practice before tonglen (see The Path to Awakening, “The Second Point: Train in the Two Bodhicittas”).

Analytical Meditation

Following tonglen, we will teach an analytical meditation called ‘analytical examination of mind’. It is connected to lhaktong but is a more preliminary level of Mahamudra. It is an analytical practice where you divide mind into three parts: past mind, present mind, and future mind. There is a way to analyze this. Once you have a good level of shiné you will be able to comfortably and effectively do this practice. 


You will practice tonglen meditation combined with the analytical examination of mind meditation. During that time we will give you the Dorje Sempa empowerment and for some time you will do Dorje Sempa practice. 

Kyerim and Dzokrim

After this we will teach you the Vajrayana view and philosophy of kyerim (generation or creation stage) and dzokrim (completion stage, Mahamudra meditation). There are, broadly, three sets of instructions. The first are instructions on how to properly receive empowerments. Second are instructions on the types of precepts (samaya) necessary to protect the practice of Vajrayana. Finally, the third is the subject of kyerim and dzokrim. 


Once you have learned about kyerim and dzokrim practice we will give the Chenrezik empowerment and teach you the practice of Chenrezik. 

Final Words

This is the systematic program of Bodhi Path teachings. Practicing this is how you will achieve enlightenment within one life. 

May this be auspicious!

Tibetan—Sanskrit—English Glossary

In his spoken lecture, Shamar Rinpoche moved easily between Tibetan, Sanskrit, and English terms. This transcription respects his choices for preferred language of specific terms, but a short glossary of some of the terms and deity names may be helpful.

Deity Names:



Dorje Sempa–Vajrasattva 

Gyalwa Gyamtso–Jinasagara

Khorlo Demchok–Chakrasamvara



Chakgya Chenpo/Chakchen–Mahamudra–Great Seal

Chödruk–n/a–Six Practices

Dzokpa Chenpo/Dzokchen–Ati Yoga–Great Perfection

Dzokrim–Sampannakrama–Completion Stage

Kyerim–Utpannakrama–Generation/Creation Stage

Lhaktong–Vipashyana–Penetrative Insight

Shiné–Shamata–Calm Abiding

Tummo–Chandali–Inner Heat practice

Reference Note: The book A Path of Practice was also completed, based on the whole series of talks from this program at Remetschwiel.

© Bodhi Path Buddhist Center

Tags: Curriculum, Europe, Germany